Saturday, November 6, 2010

Almost Here

Brother Eldridge pens our latest "newser":

This may be our “sleeper” show of the fall: tenor & soprano
saxophonist Michael Blake, who plays HSU’s Kate Buchanan room Monday
night, was part of the downtown “Knitting Factory” scene in 1990s New
York, where he was a member of hipster legend John Lurie’s Lounge
Lizards. Since then, he’s played key roles in Steven Bernstein’s New
Millennial Territory Orchestra and many projects associated with the
Jazz Composers Collective (Ben Allison’s bands, the Herbie Nichols
Project, etc.)--all while leading a variety of groups of his own on a
series of well regarded albums. But somehow, as Chris Kelsey put it
in Jazz Times, he’s remained "one of an all-too-common subset of the
jazz community: players who create brilliant music while flying
largely under the radar of widespread critical and/or popular
acclaim...One hopes the public--or at least the critics--will get hip
to it eventually."

Here’s your chance to get hip. With members of his Danish quartet
Blake Tartare, Blake is on a West Coast tour that included a stop at
Seattle’s forward-thinking Earshot Jazz Festival earlier this week.
(See some fantastic pictures and read a short review at:

With a mix of imaginative covers and inspired originals, the group is
paying tribute to one of Blake’s own unsung heroes, tenor saxophonist
Eli “Lucky” Thompson, who died in obscurity after a promising career
in the 1950s and 60s.

We’re looking forward to a brilliant night of beautiful, straight-
ahead jazz that still knows how to throw some daring curves. We
really hope you don’t miss it. (Program note: Bring a sweater!
Fulkerson can get hot, but Kate Buchanan blows cold.)

Details: Michael Blake’s Lucky Thompson Project, Monday, November 8 at
8:00 pm in the Kate Buchanan in HSU’s University Center. Tickets ($15
General, $10 Student/Senior) are The Works and People’s Records--and
at our website:

You can read more about Michael Blake, listen to his music, and watch
a video of the band at:


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Michael Blake

The final show of the fall portion of our 2010-11 season is coming up
in just over two weeks, when saxophonist Michael Blake brings his
“Lucky Thompson Project” to HSU’s Kate Buchanan Room on Monday,
November 8th at 8:00 p.m.

With a mix of covers and originals, Blake—last heard here as part of
bassist Ben Allison’s group “Man Size Safe”—pays tribute to one of his
musical heroes, the unsung tenor Eli “Lucky” Thompson (1924-2005), who
left the US for a promising career in Europe in the 1950s and 60s but
eventually drifted into obscurity.

We’ve built a web page where you can read more about Blake, listen to
music from the Lucky Thompson Project, and watch a video featuring
members of the band. It’s at

Tickets will soon be available at The Works, People’s Records, and
Missing Link Records, and in the meantime you can purchase them on the
“Tickets” page of our site:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tom Harrell

Tom Harrell

The Tom Harrell Quintet last Tuesday night at the Fulkerson Hall was memorable, to say the lest. To see some pics from the afternoon's workshop, and a couple of concert pics as well, go here.

Scroll down past the pics of my backyard and Rupert the Cat.

Next Up!

Michael Blake Band: "The World Awakes" – A Tribute to Lucky Thompson

November 8. Go here for details.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nate Chinen checks Bob Doran--sort of.

One of our favorite jazz writers, Nate Chinen (New York Times, Jazz Times, etc., etc.) keeps an excellent blog called "The Gig."  The day before last, in a post that linked to his NYT review of Antonio Sanchez's latest gig at the Jazz Standard, he used a photo by friend of the RJA and North Coast Journal Arts & Entertainment editor Bob Doran, who's shot some superb pix at our shows over the past few years.  (This particular photo is part of a set taken at Sanchez's appearance here in Arcata last spring.)

We don't think Bob is especially particular about copyright or even about attribution--and heaven knows we're not always 100% scrupulous about securing permission to use work we find floating around on the web. But hey, Nate:  come check us out! (And give a nod to Bob.)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

We have a SEASON!!!!!!!!

Hi friends,

It took a little longer than we had hoped for all of the pieces to
fall into place, but we are very pleased to finally announce our
2010-2011 season. The fall lineup features:

on September 24, the CHRIS POTTER UNDERGROUND, led by "the most
compelling saxophonist of his generation." (You can read more about
Chris and check out both audio and video of Underground at

In October, it's the TOM HARRELL QUINTET, whose trumpet-playing leader
"captivates both the hearts and the minds of his listeners.”

November brings the MICHAEL BLAKE BAND's "The World Awakes—A Tribute
to Lucky Thompson," which "simultaneously embraces jazz history while
challenging it head on."

In the spring, we're proud to present:

The VIJAY IYER TRIO, whose most recent album, "Historicity," was
2009's consensus jazz album of the year.

The MATT WILSON-RON MILES DUO with GARY VERSACE, featuring two very
welcome returning guests and one of today's most in-demand

The AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE QUINTET, led by the Berkeley High graduate and
Thelonious Monk Competition winner who's just been signed by Blue Note

Read more about the entire season at

Season tickets (six shows for the price of five!) and tickets for
Chris Potter Underground ($15 general admission and $10 for students
and seniors) can be purchased online at
If you prefer interacting with real live humans, the humans at the
Works in Arcata and Eureka, Peoples Records and Missing Link Records
in Arcata will also sell you tickets for Chris Potter Underground.

Now is also a good time to renew your Redwood Jazz Alliance
membership, or become a member for the first time. Membership gets you
not only the warm glow that comes from knowing you're helping to
support bringing world-class jazz to Humboldt County and some lovely
perks from select RJA sponsors, but also reserved seating at any RJA
concert you attend. Read all of the details and purchase your
membership here:

We'll see you on the 24th!

The Redwood Jazz Alliance

Sunday, July 18, 2010

KHSU Has a New Gadget--Spintron

Our every-experimenting brother Michael makes use of the latest gizmo for publishing the set list of our radio program, "Bright Moments."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

RIP Bill Dixon

RIP Bill Dixon. I saw him and got to hang with him and wife for a day at the 2006 Guelph Festival. An angry crank on stage but a wonderfully warm guy off stage. I love his weird compositions and out-of-this-world tone. Will miss him.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Robert Holt at Jazz West

Down at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival on Sunday we made the acquaintance of Robert Holt, jazz photographer at the superb jazz photo site "Jazz West."

Here are Robert's photos from Sunday: Dafnis Prieto, Gretchen Parlato, Jason Moran. Great shots!

Friday, June 4, 2010

RJA Interview at AllAboutJazz

From our latest missive to our members:

We’re honored to join the illustrious ranks of guests on "The Jazz
Session," a weekly--sometimes twice or even thrice weekly--jazz
interview podcast produced by radio journalist and DJ Jason Crane and
hosted by, "the web’s leading source for jazz,
reviews, mp3 downloads, and more."

Jason talked to us last summer about what we do, how we do it, and how
our community makes it possible. You can find the Redwood Jazz
Alliance episode of The Jazz Session at

or download it for free on iTunes.

While you're at the Jazz Session's site, check out Jason’s archive of
past interviews, which includes lots of musicians the RJA has hosted
(Marty Ehrlich, FLY, Frank Kimbrough, Donny McCaslin, Myra Melford,
Matt Wilson) and plenty more we haven't--yet (Gary Burton, Don Byron,
Nels Cline, Jason Moran, Sonny Rollins…the list goes on and on).

Stay tuned for news of the 2010-11 season--coming shortly!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Peter Gannushkin's Jazz Photography

Over the past several months I've noticed on Facebook and elsewhere, mostly in relation to news about trumpeter Nate Wooley, that a jazz photographer by the name of Peter Gannushkin is compiling an interesting body of work.

He seems to be in the thick of several different jazz communities in NYC. And he seems to be capturing rather regularly very striking images of really interesting performers, in action, and they rather often happen to be players who have come west at one time or another to play for the Redwood Jazz Alliance.

Here are his photos at Flickr:

Here is an interview with him in which he talks about giving away his work for free:

He also maintains a web site,

Check him out.

Monday, May 17, 2010

So Long, Hank

I saw him only one time, in an all start tribute to Charlie Parker (Le Spectacle du ciecle!) at Place des Arts in Montreal, in probably 81 or 2. Dizzy was bandleader. Philly Joe Jones on drums, Ray Brown on bass, James Moody (the only extant member), Milt Jackson on vibes. Hank at the piano.

And it weren't just a blowing session, either. They played their butts off, and it were so grand.....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Penofin Jazz Festival


Yesterday in Potter Valley:

Dottie Grossman (poet) and Michael Vlatkovich (trombone)
Rich Halley (tenor sax), Michael Vlatkovich (trombone) Clyde Reed (bass), Carson Halley (drums)
Farmers by Nature: Gerald Cleaver (drums), William Parker (bass), Craig Taborn (piano)
Laura Winter (poet), Rich Halley (tenor sax), Clyde Reed (bass), Carson Halley (drums)
Chicago Underground Duo: Rob Mazurek (trumpet and electronics), Chad Taylor (drums, vibes and electronics)
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

KHSU Concert Coming Up!

Local community public radio station KHSU is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a jazz show highlighting its many years of jazz programing.

The show takes place on Friday, May 7th.

Tickets are available online at KHSU.ORG.

There is a $1.99 service fee for an on-line ticket purchase, but this is a very convenient way to get a ticket ahead of time.

Tickets are also available at local shops: the Co-Op, the Works, Wildwood Music, and Fortuna Music Mart.

Performers are Darius Brotman and Friends with Juanita Harris, Shao Way Wu’s combo, and a group of HSU student musicians called Flannel Potato Bug.

Tickets are $10 in advance, and there are only 150 seats, so door tickets may be limited.

Also of interest: free hors d’oeuvres with ticket. Wine will be for sale (and sales of which benefits the museum).

Doors open at 6, show starts at 7.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Is This Not the Greatest Album Cover of All Time?

Bob Doran Interviews Antonio Sanchez

Antonio Sanchez interview

When we caught up with drummer Antonio Sanchez, he was at home in New York City making last minute preparations for his West Coast tour.

Growing up in Mexico City, were you playing jazz at all?

Not really. I was mainly playing rock. I was taking private lessons with a friend of the family and I would play along to records of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin. My mom always liked rock so I grew up listening to rock and classical music -- not that much jazz. She did try to play me an Art Blakey record, when I was in my rock stage, but I didn't like it too much. I wasn't ready for it.

And you were playing in bands?

I had a bunch of rock bands. I would play with singers, stuff like that, but no jazz. Then I went to the conservatory in Mexico City and they had a jazz workshop. I used to go and hang out with the guys and started listening. Some of the guys told me, 'You should listen to this guy or that guy,' and they gave me tapes and I started listening. One of the first things I listened to was the Chick Corea Band -- that changed a lot of things for me because I came from rock and that music has rock elements, but it's instrumental and they're soloing all the time. That brought me to fusion and from fusion I went to Latin jazz and eventually straight ahead jazz.

What was the shift from rock to jazz like as a drummer?

It's a lot more demanding technically playing high level jazz. You have to solo a lot and that requires a deep deep knowledge of your instrument and the music. Rock is demanding in many ways too, but you don't solo that much and you're not improvising that much. It's a different set of skills.

And after the conservatory...

From there I went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1993.

Did you go there specifically to study jazz?

I went to study jazz -- that was my goal.

I know you went from Berklee to the New England Conservatory. Was it on to New York and professional gigging from there?

My whole stay in Boston I was playing professionally, but only locally. At the end of my Berklee stay I started playing with Danilo Pérez and Paquito D'Rivera. From there it started snowballing, playing with David Sanchez and Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, Gary Burton, all these people that I play with today because they heard me with someone else and liked what they heard.

The first few musicians you mentioned are big names in Latin jazz. Do you think of yourself as a Latin jazz drummer?

In the beginning I used to play a lot of Latin jazz and play with salsa-based bands and play AfroCuban music. But I really wanted to break out of that. I knew it would be hard because my name is Antonio Sanchez and I come from Mexico, so people assume I play Latin jazz. But when I started playing with Pat Metheny and Michael Brecker -- people who don't belong in the Latin jazz circles -- then I started getting more credibility as a drummer who can play more than Latin jazz, who can play straight-ahead jazz.

Do you think perhaps some straight ahead players hire you because they see your skill, but also they want to add some Latin flavor?

Maybe a bit of both. Not necessarily because they want the Latin flavor, but a different flavor. When I fuse my influences with straight-ahead jazz it sounds different from someone who grew up playing straight-ahead jazz. I think I play it well, but I like to mix it up with other stuff I know - that's what makes my voice different.

At some point you put your own band together, Migration. Is it a lot different being the leader?

Oh yes. I've been a sideman for such a long time, but I've been around band leaders pretty much all my life, so I know it's very hard and very taxing on somebody to lead an ensemble, to write music for it, to get gigs, to pay everybody. It's a hard job. I knew it would be hard, but I had some music that I wanted to play and I really felt I had something to offer as a bandleader. So I put this band together that was basically two saxophones, bass and drums. It's a peculiar formation because you don't have piano or guitar to provide chords -- it has a very different color when you have all that space. So I wrote songs for that ensemble and it's been a lot of fun. I love that space that comes from not having a harmonic instrument.

And you're writing most of the music, the melodies?

Yes. On this tour I think pretty much everything we're playing is something I have written.

When you're behind the drums and someone else is playing your melodies, I suppose it takes a lot of trust...

I know exactly what you mean. Of course we're all musical kindred spirits in a way. We all share the same musical values and musical views and concepts. When I called the guys who are playing with me -- Donny McCaslin and Dave Binney play saxophone and Scott Colley plays bass -- well, I've been playing with them on and off for many years. I've played in their bands actually. So it's a healthy musical relationship.

There are not a whole lot of bands led by drummers historically. There's the band your mother played for you, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and a handful of others. Why do you think that is?

I'd say the primary reason is that a lot of bandleaders are leaders because they write a lot of music. They want to show something that they have created. If you have never studied anything but drums, it's hard to write music. Music is written on a guitar or a piano or a saxophone, but for me mainly on piano. That's why I studied piano, because I wanted to have an option of writing music. I always loved classical music and at some point I want to compose -- and I did compose classical sounding pieces. When I got into jazz I wanted to transfer that knowledge into the jazz world and write music. I think the reason there are not a lot of band-leading drummers -- and there are great drummers like Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes who led bands -- but they don't write music; they always play somebody else's music. I didn't want a band where I played somebody else's music -- I wanted to play my own music and have my own concept of what the band should be.

How do you lead from behind the drum kit?

Since it's my music, I feel like I have more authority to shape the music dynamically in term of, You're going to play soft, You're going to play loud, play slow, play faster. I can control those nuances that make the music sound one way or another. And the drums are such a powerful instrument -- you can drown everybody if you play loud enough, but you can also play incredibly soft and be very musical and sensitive. I like to explore all of that as a bandleader. But I don't want it to seem like I'm the bandleader -- I just want it to be like, that's a band playing music. Maybe you don't know who the bandleader is because everybody has an equal share in the ensemble.

Are you teaching also?

I teach, I do a lot of clinics, but I don't teach privately because I'm on the road so much. In my clinics I have drummers and different kinds of musicians, sometimes people who don't even play instruments, who just like music. I try to keep my clinics open in terms of concept, where everybody can use something. If I get too technical and start talking about my foot technique or stuff like that, then a lot of people don't get anything out of it.

Is there some broad stroke thing you are trying to get across?

I'm always trying to teach about musicality, and that goes across all instruments. You know, how to develop solos, how to interact with other musicians, and I also try to talk about the business, what it takes to make it in this business, both as a musician and as a person, as a human being. That's something I think a lot of times is overlooked.

What does it take?

It takes being a nice person actually. You're going to be dealing with people all the time, you're going to be going on the road, you're going to be sleeping badly, eating badly; you're going to be in a bad mood, but you still have to put on a nice face and try to make the best out of it. That can actually make or break your career, how you interact with other musicians on a daily basis.

It seems like it's getting harder to make a living as a musician in this day and age.

It isn't getting any easier. I think the economic downturn has hurt in general. For example, if anybody these days calls me for a tour, it's never a tour in the United States. It's always a tour in Europe, or sometimes Japan, but mostly Europe. That's where 80 percent of the stuff is happening. Last year I must have been over there 10 times for different things.

Why do you think that is? Because the American public doesn't support jazz?

It's the mentality of the United States right now. I think they're so drugged by TV and by the Internet, that I don't think they want to go out that much. I don't want to generalize, but there's a problem. Why would you go out to hear music that you've never heard on the radio or on TV? How are you going to get to know somebody if you never hear their name mentioned anywhere?

So partly it has to do with the fact that jazz has no place in broadcast media today...

It has everything to do with it. Why do you buy a record? Because you've listened to it somewhere else, on the radio or maybe someone plays it for you. Then you get to the record store, there are thousands of jazz records and you've never heard them, you have heard nothing, so what are you going to get?

I have to admit; there are big parts of the jazz world that I know little about.

Nobody does.

Well the guys in the Redwood Jazz Alliance do, the people who are bringing you here. They have a radio show, and a deep knowledge of jazz, and they love to share what they know.

People like that are sort of keeping jazz alive.

How do you see your role in the problem? What's the solution?

The only solution is to keep going out like we're doing now and try to play some music. Hopefully people will come and they'll like it and they'll spread the word around.

Sounds like a plan... Anything else you want to add?

We covered a lot of ground. The only thing I would like to add is that I have a new record coming out in the summer. It's a live record we did at the Jazz Standard in New York. It's a double CD called Antonio Sanchez Live in New York.

Who else is on it?

It's with David Sanchez, Miguel Zenon and Scott Colley. It should be out in June or July on Cam Jazz, the same people who put out my first record, Migration. I think people will like it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our Latest Missive

It's hard to believe that our 2009-10 season is almost over. Thanks to
all of you for coming out to hear the music and for being such a great
audience. One of the things that we hear over and over again from the
artists is how much they enjoy playing for you, because you're really
listening and you're so supportive.

We're closing out the season with a bang. When Frank Kimbrough heard
that our last show of the year was Antonio Sanchez and Migration, he
exclaimed, "Oh, that band is KILLIN'!" Antonio Sanchez is probably
best known as the drummer in the Pat Metheny Group since 2002, but
that high-profile gig hasn't kept him from also playing with a host of
other jazz legends in the past decade. Migration also includes tenor
saxophonist Donny McCaslin (who many of you will remember from his own
concert here last season), alto saxophonist David Binney and bassist
Scott Colley. You can read more about the whole band, hear streaming
audio of their music and check out lots of cool links at

The concert is Thursday, April 1 at 8 p.m. in the Kate Buchanan Room.
PLEASE NOTE THE DATE—that's a change from our early publicity and
what's printed on the season tickets. Tickets are $15 general
admission and $10 for students and seniors and can be purchased at the
Works in Arcata and Eureka, Peoples Records and Missing Link Records
in Arcata, online at
and at the door.

Antonio Sanchez and Migration will also present a free workshop the
afternoon of the concert, Thursday, April 1 at 5 p.m. in the Studio
Theater at HSU (right next to the Van Duzer Theater.)

We'll see you at the show!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

RJA Upcoming: this week!

Our next show, coming right up this Thursday evening, February 25th at 8 p.m. at the Morris Graves Museum of Art, 636 F Street, Eureka. It's piano-sax duo by two great New
York-based players: veteran pianist Frank Kimbrough and tenor
wunderkind Noah Preminger. This promises to be an intimate acoustic
show that will both smolder and spark. Arrive early to enjoy the
galleries at the Graves--and to enjoy some refreshment before the
show. (One of the many things we like about doing shows at the Graves
is that we're licensed to sell wine and beer there!)

Frank and Noah will also lead a free public workshop on composing,
improvising, and the unique challenges of playing as a duo on Friday
morning, February 26 at 11:00 on the stage of HSU's Fulkerson Recital

More information on both events--as well as streaming audio of Frank
and Noah's music--here.

Thursday's performance isn't your only chance to hear great jazz at
the Graves this week. This afternoon (Sunday, February 21st), our
partner for the Kimbrough-Preminger show, the Humboldt Arts Council,
hosst the Inkling Quartet at the monthly Sunday Jazz Jam from 2:00 to
4:30 p.m. The group, which consists of Suzie Laraine on saxes, Jill
Petricca on flutes, Brian Post on keyboards, and Shao Way Wu on bass,
showcases original writing in a chamber-jazz vein.

Hope to see you more than once this week!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The NYT HEARTS Myra Melford

There’s always room in the precincts of improvised music for a new album by the pianist Myra Melford. “The Whole Tree Gone” (Firehouse 12), her first as a leader in more than three years, is a knockout by any standard, including the bar set by her previous work. Ambitious but approachable, suffused with airy warmth and restless calm, it unpacks a suite of lyrical compositions Ms. Melford has been refining since 2004. Their character ranges from slyly furtive (“Moon Bird,” inspired by Miró) to gracefully frantic (the title track) to starkly elegiac (“A Generation Comes and Another Goes”), often shape-shifting in mid-song.

Be Bread, Ms. Melford’s coolly intuitive cohort, girds every structure with a pliable integrity, making these pieces feel both supple and sturdy. The group has a sympathetic front line (and a pair of commanding soloists) in the trumpeter Cuong Vu and the clarinetist Ben Goldberg; its rhythm section consists of the guitarist Brandon Ross and the bassist Stomu Takeishi, both playing acoustic instruments, and the drummer Matt Wilson, an endless fount of effervescence. Ms. Melford leads from within the stir, meting out her pianism in surges or shimmers, according to the music’s needs.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our Latest Email Missive

Happy New Year! We're kicking off our spring season with the dynamic
pianist Myra Melford and her sextet Be Bread on Friday, January 29 at
8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets are $15 general admission
and $10 for students and seniors and can be purchased at the Works in
Arcata and Eureka, Peoples Records and Missing Link Records in Arcata
and online at

We're sure that many of you caught Myra when she was here last month
with Jenny Scheinman. Now we're going to have a chance to hear Myra
perform her own music with her own all-star band. She put together Be
Bread several years ago to showcase music inspired by her study of
Indian music, but the band's sound isn't limited to one style, with
jazz, blues and avant-garde elements blending together with the South
Asian influences to create an unclassifiable yet cohesive whole. Be
Bread's concert here is part of a West Coast tour celebrating the
band's new CD "The Whole Tree Gone," which is being released next week
and is already gathering rave reviews. All About Jazz calls the album
"a committed and potent ensemble performance of music which satisfies
both the head and the heart" and "a triumph for Melford."

Besides Melford on piano and harmonium, Be Bread includes:

Trumpeter Cuong Vu, who is probably best known for his work in the Pat
Metheny Group, but he has also worked with everyone from Laurie
Anderson and David Bowie to Dave Douglas, as well as releasing four
critically acclaimed albums of his own.

Clarinetist Ben Goldberg, who is no stranger to North Coast audiences,
having previously played here with Go Home and Plays Monk.

Brandon Ross, guitarist of choice for Cassandra Wilson, Henry
Threadgill, Jewel, Tony Williams, Muhal Richard Abrams, Don Byron and
many more.

Stomu Takeishi, 2009 Downbeat Magazine Critic's Poll Rising Star
Electric Bassist. With Be Bread, Takeishi plays a 5-string acoustic
bass guitar.

Drummer Matt Wilson, who many of you will remember from Myra Melford's
concert here two years ago with the cooperative group Trio M. Matt
recently pulled off the rare feat of being featured on the covers of
both Downbeat and Jazz Times in successive months.

Myra and members of Be Bread will also present a free workshop
Saturday, January 30 at 10 a.m. in the Gist Hall Theater on the HSU

You can read more about Myra Melford and Be Bread and hear streaming
audio of their music at